Wednesday, March 24, 2010



Several years ago, I created a short play called LOVE IS MY SIN, a two-character drama of love, separation, betrayal, remorse and re-union: a couple in love is separated; they each have affairs; they try to reconcile but then remain separated… until love for each other brings them back together.

It was adapted from Shakespeare’s sonnets, rearranging and assigning them as dialog to the man and woman to tell the story. Then I directed it, and as part of a series of short plays at Theatre Studio Inc (TSI) on the theme of “The Seven Deadly Sins,” presented it together with a terrific Shakespearean actress, Amy Quint, to an OOB audience in December 2004.

I’ve included the full script below.

Flyer for LOVE IS MY SIN
Adapted from Shakespeare's sonnets by Eric H. Roffman
Presented at Theatre Studio Inc Dec 15 & 17, 2004

Beginning Thursday (March 25), the famous and illustrious director, Peter Brook, will be presenting a two character play adapted from the sonnets of Shakespeare, called LOVE IS MY SIN, at Theater For A New Audience (TFANA) (see below for details).

I suspect he never heard of my play. From what little I have heard of his project, from someone who saw it in Paris a while ago, it is somewhat different in story, tone and style from my adaptation, but we’ll see when it opens.

None of us, of course, except Will himself, can claim ownership of that title (the first words of sonnet #142) -- or any of the words in the whole play for that matter.


Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,
Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:
O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,
And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,
That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments
And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,
Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those
Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:
Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,
Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,
By self-example mayst thou be denied!


There have been a number of other adaptations of the sonnets into plays in the last few years. In addition to my play and Peter Brook’s, there was, for example, a one woman show, “On The Way To Timbuktu,” at The Ensemble Studio Theater that incorporated the sonnets; and there was a student project at Columbia that set some of the sonnets to music and fractured the sonnets, extracting lines here and there.

Of course there have been other plays that are inspired by the sonnets, though not consisting entirely of dialog extracted from them: a few years ago there was a program of short plays at The Public Theater, called “Love’s Fire,” and there is George Bernard Shaw’s “The Dark Lady Of The Sonnets.”

Several factors make it possible to create a play by re-ordering the sonnets.

Most important is that the sonnets are dramatic. Each sonnet has a life of its own that makes it seem like someone is talking.

Next most important is that most of the sonnets are ambiguous enough to support a multitude of interpretations – in particular, most do not explicitly specify the identity/gender of either the speaker or the person being spoken to (or about). (Although there is an assumption from the published ordering of the sonnets and occasional internal clues, that all the sonnets are in Shakespeare’s own voice and the first 126 concern a young man, followed by the rest addressed to a “dark lady,” individually most sonnets can be easily taken out of this assumed context.)

Finally, and very importantly, the sonnets address so many aspects of human relationships that there is enough material to tell many stories. At its heart, though, the principal subject is love – passion, lust, betrayal, loss, pursuit, denial, rejection, despair, hope, consummation, forgiveness, and many more of the myriad emotions and aspects of love. A second important theme is aging and the irreversible destruction caused by Time, opposed by the immortality of poetry and the idea of children as extending a person’s life.

The nature of the sonnets makes them perfect as dialog for constructing a play. Conversely, seeing and hearing the sonnets within a drama, out of the context of the published order, shines a brilliant light on their complexity and sophistication, illuminating many (almost) hidden meanings that lie within the poems!

154 sonnets provide more than 2 hours of material. (Not all sonnets, however, work well in the context of creating a particular dramatic story.)

There are also several possible characters that seem to live in the sonnets, including WILL, the “dark lady” of the sonnets, WILL’s beloved (a young man, a woman, or both), and another poet. A one character, 2-character, 3-character, and even 4 or 5-character drama is quite possible!

Originally, in fact, my version of LOVE IS MY SIN was a three character play with “the dark lady of the sonnets” making an explicit, rather than implicit appearance. However, when the sultry, sexual, brilliant Spanish actress that was virtually typecast for the part, suddenly got a starring role on Spanish television and left shortly before the performance, I took her sonnets out and played the two-character version.

Recently, I have drafted a full-length, 3-character version of the adaptation, which includes Elizabethan music and dance (a classical music musical!):

This play begins with DAWN at an easel painting EVE. EVE is playing the lute, and is nude except for draping. The pose and lighting suggest an Old Master portrait. At the conclusion of the song, they kiss. Then, at the party displaying the finished portrait, we see the long, loving relationship between DAWN and WILL.

This play, centering on the love between DAWN and WILL, and the triangle that breaks them apart, expands on the two character version by showing explicitly the affair between DAWN and EVE, and the torrid affair between EVE and WILL. Many other aspects of their lives and relationships – including WILL’s illness -- are elaborated in more detail than was possible in the short play.

I do hope to bring this play to life soon.


Theatre for a New Audience's 30th Season







(Note 3/26 -- Some comments on the Peter Brook production!)

* * * * *



A dialog to the edge of doom,

Adapted from the sonnets of Shakespeare

by Eric H. Roffman







There is a bench at the center, a chair on the left (as seen by the audience) mid stage, a chair to the right of the bench and forward, and a chair to the right of the bench and back: near an exit through the curtain.

The “Theme/Mood/Style” designations are for guidance only; actors should stress the story or plot (ie the evolving relationship between the characters) and use the style or mood only to push, emphasize and clarify the story. But there should be a clear distinction between each section.

Theme/Mood/Style: DESIRE

SHE enters first with lute and sits on the bench, putting the lute on her lap.. Then HE enters.

106 HE + SHE

SHE: When in the chronicle of wasted time

I see descriptions of the fairest wights,

HE: And beauty making beautiful old rime,

In praise of ladies dead

SHE ...and lovely knights,

HE: Then, in the blazon of sweet beauty's best,

Of hand, of foot,

SHE: ... of lip, of eye, of brow,

HE: I see their antique pen would have express'd

Even such a beauty as you master now.

SHE: So all their praises are but prophecies

Of this our time, all you prefiguring;

And for they looked but with divining eyes,

They had not skill enough your worth to sing:

HE: For we, which now behold these present days,

Have eyes to wonder,

SHE ... but lack tongues to praise.

He sits beside her .

128 HE

HE: How oft when thou, my music, music play'st,

Upon that blessed wood whose motion sounds

With thy sweet fingers when thou gently sway'st

The wiry concord that mine ear confounds,

Do I envy those jacks that nimble leap,

To kiss the tender inward of thy hand,

Whilst my poor lips which should that harvest reap,

At the wood's boldness by thee blushing stand!

To be so tickled, they would change their state

And situation with those dancing chips,

O'er whom thy fingers walk with gentle gait,

Making dead wood more bless'd than living lips.

Since saucy jacks so happy are in this,

Give them thy fingers, me thy lips to kiss.

SHE puts the lute down beside her. They kiss.

17 SHE

SHE: Who will believe my verse in time to come,

If it were fill'd with your most high deserts?

Though yet heaven knows it is but as a tomb

Which hides your life, and shows not half your parts.

If I could write the beauty of your eyes,

And in fresh numbers number all your graces,

The age to come would say 'This poet lies;

Such heavenly touches ne'er touch'd earthly faces.'

So should my papers, yellow'd with their age,

Be scorn'd, like old men of less truth than tongue,

And your true rights be term'd a poet's rage

And stretched metre of an antique song:

But were some child of yours alive that time,

You should live twice,--in it, and in my rhyme.

73 HE

HE: That time of year thou mayst in me behold

When yellow leaves, or none, or few, do hang

Upon those boughs which shake against the cold,

Bare ruin'd choirs, where late the sweet birds sang.

In me thou see'st the twilight of such day

As after sunset fadeth in the west;

Which by and by black night doth take away,

Death's second self, that seals up all in rest.

In me thou see'st the glowing of such fire,

That on the ashes of his youth doth lie,

As the death-bed, whereon it must expire,

Consum'd with that which it was nourish'd by.

This thou perceiv'st, which makes thy love more strong,

To love that well, which thou must leave ere long.

SHE takes his hands in hers and squeezes them, and then guides his head onto her lap.

Theme/Mood/Style: LUST

12 SHE

When I do count the clock that tells the time,

And see the brave day sunk in hideous night;

When I behold the violet past prime,

SHE runs her fingers through his gray hair.

And sable curls, all silvered o'er with white;

When lofty trees I see barren of leaves,

Which erst from heat did canopy the herd,

And summer's green all girded up in sheaves,

Borne on the bier with white and bristly beard,

Then of thy beauty do I question make,

That thou among the wastes of time must go,

Since sweets and beauties do themselves forsake

And die as fast as they see others grow;

SHE rises and walks behind him and leans over him seductively, with her hands on his chest.

And nothing 'gainst Time's scythe can make defence

Save breed, to brave him when he takes thee hence.

15 HE

HE: When I consider every thing that grows

Holds in perfection but a little moment,

That this huge stage presenteth nought but shows

Whereon the stars in secret influence comment;

When I perceive that men as plants increase,

Cheered and checked even by the self-same sky,

Vaunt in their youthful sap, at height decrease,

And wear their brave state out of memory;

Then the conceit of this inconstant stay

Sets you most rich in youth before my sight,

He rises and moves behind the bench to her.

Where wasteful Time debateth with decay

To change your day of youth to sullied night,

And all in war with Time for love of you,

As he takes from you, I engraft you new.

On “engraft” he leans her down on the bench and (abstractly) suggests that he is mounting her.

They rise. They kiss. They sit down together, lovingly.

123 SHE

SHE: No, Time, thou shalt not boast that I do change:

Thy pyramids built up with newer might

To me are nothing novel, nothing strange;

They are but dressings of a former sight.

Our dates are brief, and therefore we admire

What thou dost foist upon us that is old;

And rather make them born to our desire

Than think that we before have heard them told.

Thy registers and thee I both defy,

Not wondering at the present nor the past,

For thy records and what we see doth lie,

Made more or less by thy continual haste.

This I do vow and this shall ever be;

I will be true despite thy scythe and thee.

HE knows this is more than she will ever do. HE says, almost directly to the audience:

138 HE

HE: When my love swears that she is made of truth,

I do believe her though I know she lies,

That she might think me some untutor'd youth,

Unlearned in the world's false subtleties.

Thus vainly thinking that she thinks me young,

Although she knows my days are past the best,

Simply I credit her false-speaking tongue:

On both sides thus is simple truth suppressed:

But wherefore says she not she is unjust?

And wherefore say not I that I am old?

O! love's best habit is in seeming trust,

And age in love, loves not to have years told:

Therefore I lie with her, and she with me,

And in our faults by lies we flatter'd be.

SHE addresses him directly:

142 SHE

SHE: Love is my sin, and thy dear virtue hate,

Hate of my sin, grounded on sinful loving:

O! but with mine compare thou thine own state,

And thou shalt find it merits not reproving;

Or, if it do, not from those lips of thine,

That have profan'd their scarlet ornaments

And seal'd false bonds of love as oft as mine,

Robb'd others' beds' revenues of their rents.

Be it lawful I love thee, as thou lov'st those

Whom thine eyes woo as mine importune thee:

Root pity in thy heart, that, when it grows,

Thy pity may deserve to pitied be.

If thou dost seek to have what thou dost hide,

By self-example mayst thou be denied!

HE knows she can not be faithful. But he doesn’t care. He takes her hands, sitting on the bench.

151 HE

HE: Love is too young to know what conscience is,

Yet who knows not conscience is born of love?

Then, gentle cheater, urge not my amiss,

Lest guilty of my faults thy sweet self prove:

For, thou betraying me, I do betray

My nobler part to my gross body's treason;

My soul doth tell my body that he may

Triumph in love; flesh stays no farther reason,

But rising at thy name doth point out thee,

As his triumphant prize.

Strongly and proudly, yet very intimately to her, he adds:

... Proud of this pride,

He is contented thy poor drudge to be,

To stand in thy affairs, fall by thy side.

To the audience, proudly:

No want of conscience hold it that I call

Her 'love,' for whose dear love I rise and fall.

HE turns and holds her possessively. She is trying (not too hard) to escape.

57 SHE

SHE: Being your slave what should I do but tend,

Upon the hours, and times of your desire?

I have no precious time at all to spend;

Nor services to do, till you require.

Nor dare I chide the world-without-end hour,

Whilst I, my sovereign, watch the clock for you,

Nor think the bitterness of absence sour,

When you have bid your servant once adieu;

Nor dare I question with my jealous thought

Where you may be, or your affairs suppose,

But, like a sad slave, stay and think of nought

Save, where you are, how happy you make those.

So true a fool is love, that in your will,

Though you do anything, he thinks no ill.

SHE breaks away. HE speaks to himself and the audience.

129 HE

The expense of spirit in a waste of shame

Is lust in action: and till action, lust

Is perjur'd, murderous, bloody, full of blame,

Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust;

Enjoy'd no sooner but despised straight;

Past reason hunted; and no sooner had,

Past reason hated, as a swallow'd bait,

On purpose laid to make the taker mad:

Mad in pursuit and in possession so;

Had, having, and in quest, to have extreme;

A bliss in proof,-- and prov'd, a very woe;

Before, a joy propos'd; behind a dream.

All this the world well knows; yet none knows well

To shun the heaven that leads men to this hell.

Theme/Mood/Style: SEPARATION

HE moves slowly during the next speech to the chair at right (as seen by the audience), his destination and new home. SHE moves to the left end of the bench.

50 HE

HE: How heavy do I journey on the way,

When what I seek, my weary travel's end,

Doth teach that ease and that repose to say,

'Thus far the miles are measured from thy friend!'

The beast that bears me, tired with my woe,

Plods dully on, to bear that weight in me,

As if by some instinct the wretch did know

His rider lov'd not speed, being made from thee:

The bloody spur cannot provoke him on,

That sometimes anger thrusts into his hide,

Which heavily he answers with a groan,

More sharp to me than spurring to his side;

For that same groan doth put this in my mind,

My grief lies onward, and my joy behind.

SHE sadly moves to the chair at the left, her new home, taking her lute and, slowly putting it away.

43 SHE

SHE: When most I wink, then do mine eyes best see,

For all the day they view things unrespected;

But when I sleep, in dreams they look on thee,

And darkly bright, are bright in dark directed.

Then thou, whose shadow shadows doth make bright,

How would thy shadow's form form happy show

To the clear day with thy much clearer light,

When to unseeing eyes thy shade shines so!

How would, I say, mine eyes be blessed made

By looking on thee in the living day,

When in dead night thy fair imperfect shade

Through heavy sleep on sightless eyes doth stay!

All days are nights to see till I see thee,

And nights bright days when dreams do show thee me.

27 HE

HE: Weary with toil, I haste me to my bed,

The dear respose for limbs with travel tir'd;

But then begins a journey in my head

To work my mind, when body's work's expired:

For then my thoughts--from far where I abide--

Intend a zealous pilgrimage to thee,

And keep my drooping eyelids open wide,

Looking on darkness which the blind do see:

Save that my soul's imaginary sight

Presents thy shadow to my sightless view,

Which, like a jewel (hung in ghastly night),

Makes black night beauteous, and her old face new.

Lo! thus, by day my limbs, by night my mind,

For thee, and for myself, no quiet find.

97 SHE

SHE: How like a winter hath my absence been

From thee, the pleasure of the fleeting year!

What freezings have I felt, what dark days seen!

What old December's bareness everywhere!

And yet this time removed was summer's time;

The teeming autumn, big with rich increase,

Bearing the wanton burden of the prime,

Like widow'd wombs after their lords' decease:

Yet this abundant issue seem'd to me

But hope of orphans, and unfather'd fruit;

For summer and his pleasures wait on thee,

And, thou away, the very birds are mute:

Or, if they sing, 'tis with so dull a cheer,

That leaves look pale, dreading the winter's near


During the following speech and after it, HE moves from the chair in front of the bench to the chair in the rear near the curtain, then disappears and returns several times, suggesting there is a secret affair going on behind the curtain.

61 SHE

SHE: Is it thy will, thy image should keep open

My heavy eyelids to the weary night?

Dost thou desire my slumbers should be broken,

While shadows like to thee do mock my sight?

Is it thy spirit that thou send'st from thee

So far from home into my deeds to pry,

To find out shames and idle hours in me,

The scope and tenure of thy jealousy?

O, no! thy love, though much, is not so great:

It is my love that keeps mine eye awake:

Mine own true love that doth my rest defeat,

To play the watchman ever for thy sake:

For thee watch I, whilst thou dost wake elsewhere,

From me far off, with others all too near.

HE disappears (gleefully) behind the curtain. HE remains out of sight for a moment too long. Then returns, looking miserable.

HE slowly returns to the center. SHE stands to the left of the bench (as seen by the audience).

109 HE

O! never say that I was false of heart,

Though absence seem'd my flame to qualify,

HE moves to her.

As easy might I from my self depart

As from my soul which in thy breast doth lie:

That is my home of love: if I have rang'd,

Like him that travels, I return again;

Just to the time, not with the time exchang'd,

So that myself bring water for my stain.

Never believe though in my nature reign'd,

All frailties that besiege all kinds of blood,

That it could so preposterously be stain'd,

To leave for nothing all thy sum of good;

For nothing this wide universe I call,

Save thou, my rose, in it thou art my all.

152 SHE

SHE: In loving thee thou know'st I am forsworn,

But thou art twice forsworn, to me love swearing;

In act thy bed-vow broke, and new faith torn,

In vowing new hate after new love bearing:

But why of two oaths' breach do I accuse thee,

When I break twenty? I am perjur'd most;

For all my vows are oaths but to misuse thee,

And all my honest faith in thee is lost:

For I have sworn deep oaths of thy deep kindness,

Oaths of thy love, thy truth, thy constancy;

And, to enlighten thee, gave eyes to blindness,

Or made them swear against the thing they see;

For I have sworn thee fair; more perjur'd I,

To swear against the truth so foul a lie.!

110 HE

HE: Alas! 'tis true, I have gone here and there,

And made my self a motley to the view,

Gor'd mine own thoughts, sold cheap what is most dear,

Made old offences of affections new;

Most true it is, that I have look'd on truth

Askance and strangely; but, by all above,

These blenches gave my heart another youth,

And worse essays prov'd thee my best of love.

Now all is done, save what shall have no end:

Mine appetite I never more will grind

On newer proof, to try an older friend,

A god in love, to whom I am confin'd.

Then give me welcome, next my heaven the best,

Even to thy pure and most most loving breast.

147 SHE

SHE: My love is as a fever longing still,

For that which longer nurseth the disease;

Feeding on that which doth preserve the ill,

The uncertain sickly appetite to please.

My reason, the physician to my love,

Angry that his prescriptions are not kept,

Hath left me, and I desperate now approve

Desire is death, which physic did except.

Past cure I am, now Reason is past care,

And frantic-mad with evermore unrest;

My thoughts and my discourse as madmen's are,

At random from the truth vainly express'd;

For I have sworn thee fair, and thought thee bright,

Who art as black as hell, as dark as night.

94 SHE

SHE: They that have power to hurt, and will do none,

That do not do the thing they most do show,

Who, moving others, are themselves as stone,

Unmoved, cold, and to temptation slow;

They rightly do inherit heaven's graces,

And husband nature's riches from expense;

They are the lords and owners of their faces,

Others, but stewards of their excellence.

The summer's flower is to the summer sweet,

Though to itself, it only live and die,

But if that flower with base infection meet,

The basest weed outbraves his dignity:

For sweetest things turn sourest by their deeds;

Lilies that fester, smell far worse than weeds.


HE moves to the center and sits on the center bench. SHE is at left.

29 HE

HE: When in disgrace with fortune and men's eyes

I all alone beweep my outcast state,

And trouble deaf heaven with my bootless cries,

And look upon myself, and curse my fate,

Wishing me like to one more rich in hope,

Featur'd like him, like him with friends possess'd,

Desiring this man's art, and that man's scope,

With what I most enjoy contented least;

Yet in these thoughts my self almost despising,

Haply I think on thee,-- and then my state,

Like to the lark at break of day arising

From sullen earth, sings hymns at heaven's gate,;

For thy sweet love remember'd such wealth brings

That then I scorn to change my state with kings.

30 SHE

SHE: When to the sessions of sweet silent thought

I summon up remembrance of things past,

I sigh the lack of many a thing I sought,

And with old woes new wail my dear time's waste:

Then can I drown an eye, unused to flow,

For precious friends hid in death's dateless night,

And weep afresh love's long since cancell'd woe,

And moan the expense of many a vanish'd sight:

Then can I grieve at grievances foregone,

And heavily from woe to woe tell o'er

The sad account of fore-bemoaned moan,

Which I new pay as if not paid before.

But if the while I think on thee, dear friend,

All losses are restor'd and sorrows end.

SHE returns to the bench and sits next to him.


SHE and HE look in each other’s eyes.

116 HE + SHE

SHE: Let me not to the marriage of true minds

Admit impediments.

HE: ... Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

Or bends with the remover to remove:

SHE: O, no! it is an ever-fixed mark,

That looks on tempests and is never shaken;

It is the star to every wandering bark,

Whose worth's unknown, although his height be taken.

HE: Love's not Time's fool, though rosy lips and cheeks

Within his bending sickle's compass come;

Love alters not with his brief hours and weeks,

But bears it out even to the edge of doom.

SHE: If this be error and upon me prov'd,

I never writ,

HE: ... nor no man ever lov'd.

HE and SHE embrace.




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